Saturday, November 6, 2010

Violet week: CB I Hate Perfume - Violet Empire

It's all about the leaves

It's Violet Week! This is my last post in a little joint blogging with two other perfumistas. Check out the violet perfume reviews at Muse in Wooden Shoes and Redolent of Spices.

The Violet

What are we really smelling when we smell violets? The sweet scent is due to molecules called ionones, which were first separated from the violet flower in 1863. Since then, almost all violet perfume are created with synthetic ionones, making their manufacture much less expensive than using a natural oil, if you could even find one. Christopher Brosius couldn't find that natural oil, so he created an accord for Violet Empire that he called Violet Empress, to mimic the smell of live violets, and the way their shy perfume seems to fade and reappear over time.

The Inspiration

Brosius was inspired to create Violet Empire by the book A Natural History of The Senses, and its description of violets as being the favourite scent of Empress Josephine de Beauharnais, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. But recently Brosius blogged that he changed his mind about the proper time period for Violet Empire. He now feels that it's not so much an early 19th century smell as an ancient Minoan one. He was reading a book about Crete and the Minotaur when he created it.

What does it smell like?

The inspiration makes sense to me, because Violet Empire isn't really about the violets, it's all about the leaves. While violet flowers may not be used in perfumery anymore, violet leaves most certainly are. They have a spicy green smell that is very popular, especially in masculines

Violet Empire starts with a brilliant green. It smells like mint and grass and pine needles. This green veil is created with the spicy violet leaves and elemi, a tree resin with a minty-pine scent. After a few minutes the green is joined by soft, smooth woods. It's a beautiful, evocative scent - both fresh and comforting. It's also very unisex. The violets peep out now and again around the green woods, but they are never overly sweet or fruity, as in other violet perfumes. I smell them most after a few hours, when they are just a definite "purple" presence after the greens have faded.

I still wonder what Brosius was getting at when he said that Violet empire was about ancient Crete. Was the Minotaur misunderstood? Was he really a poor creature, trapped in a labyrinth by a king, dreaming of green grass, shady trees and tiny flowers?

House: CB I Hate Perfume
Nose: Christopher Brosius
Notes: Violet, Elemi, Violet Leaf Absolute, Rosewood, Mahogany, and Russian Leather.

Photo: violets, AC'63
Photo: Crouching Minotaur, Nicola Hicks

P.S. For all you Torontonians, you can find Violet Empire and other cool CB I Hate Perfume scents like I Am A Dandelion and Winter of 1972 at the darling Ewanika. Nope, they're not paying me anything to mention them, I just think the store is really cool and Trish Ewanika was a doll when I went in there and spent an hour sniffing the perfumes.


  1. I've only ever tried one CB I Hate Perfume scent, which my sister brought home from NYC, since they are impossible to find in my part of the world. That was At the Beach-1966, which is the scent of my childhood summers, bottled. I love a few violets, even a few that others don't quite so much, but I would dearly love to try this some day. I've read elsewhere that Brosius' 'Wild Pansy' is much more 'violet' and not quite so green - have you tried it and is there a difference between Violet Empire and Wild Pansy?

    IN any case, it sounds heavenly. Green. Violet leaves. Leather. Violets. What's not to love?

  2. A perfume review and history lesson all in one! Brosius' new perspective on the violet is refeshing, and takes the violet back to where it came from: nature! I must try this too.

    I wish I was had these and Muses's reviews to read when I began my obsession with violets(which lead to my obsession with perfume!)

  3. Hello tarleisio: No, I haven't tried Wild Pansy, but I'd like to. I love way Brosius re-creates memories or ideas with perfume. I also want to tried Wild Hunt and Black March.

    Hi JoanElaine: I've really enjoyed our blogging project, and your and Muse's reviews too.

  4. I love the thought of elemi with violet. I haven't tried Violet Empire.
    I haven't had any luck with CB I Hate Perfume in the past. They were all lovely but faded so quickly. It seems like a line that I'd love, so many brilliant and fun inspirations!

  5. Hi EauMG: I can't say it was one of the longest lasting 'fumes I've tried, but it wasn't the briefest. I have a workday test: if I can spray it on in the morning and still smell it a bit when I get home, it's a pass. Gone before lunch: fail. Still around the next morning: A+.

  6. I love your blog! Listed it on mine...

    Have you tried CB's Wild Violet? If so how would compare it?

  7. Hi Daly Beauty: Thank you! I haven't tried the Wild Violet, if you do, let me know what it's like.

  8. I am so inspired with Christopher Brosius because he created a Violet Empress,and the way their shy perfume seems to fade and reappear over time. Well,choosing the right perfume can be difficult because we need to considered intimate buying the wrong perfume because everyone interprets odors in their own way.



Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.